14 Comments

  1. I think your gram sounds wonderful. As does her bread. I adore bread making. It is the thing I do to calm down. Bread feels like love. Like happiness. And there is nothing like kneeling it on the counter to make me let go of stress. Please tag me if you ever share her bread recipe. I’d love to see it.

    • That’s actually a great idea! If and when I do get around to doing some of her baking (and failing at it, I’m sure!), I will absolutely share the recipe.

  2. Your nana sounds badass. She reminds me of my husband’s mom, who took multiple busses to her three jobs to make ends meet for her family. She lost her husband early, too. I love bootstrap stories of online success as much as the next person, but I also think that sometimes we get so caught up in the narrative of making it big that we forget about the life we have right in front of us. Your post is a great reminder of that. And may I encourage you to make some bread?! Homemade bread is the 8th wonder of the world! 🙂

  3. Molly

    These are the people that make the world go around! Forget all this celebrity nonsense, its those regular everyday people! She sounds like an amazing woman.

  4. This is a really lovely story. I agree with you: quiet dignity is more beautiful and noteworthy than adulation. Your nana sounds wonderful. She also seems to have naturally come by the sense of contentment and satisfaction with what she had that many of us are trying to learn.

    Really wonderful, thanks for sharing her story.

  5. My wife’s grandmother was like your nana. Her husband ran off with his secretary, then sold the house out from under her leaving her homeless with two small children. She worked two jobs to buy her house back, raise her children, and never once did anyone hear her complain. Her cooking was the center piece of family life for my wife. Even today the lessons she passed on nourish us, both literally and figuratively.

    Sometimes we get so busy trying to get to our goal, that we don’t see that life is passing us by. Then, we read something like your post, and we remember to pause, and to be thankful.

    Thank you for sharing, Penny.

  6. Your Nanna is/was like an old-world enigma who was ahead of her time. Your story reminds me of Mr. G’s nanna and her baking. No one can replicate her date-nut bread, even with the recipe.

    My grandma’s husband died when she was 33 and she was left with 3 small children. She was also left a little money and opened a candy shop, against all advice. After a few years that fell apart and she went to work in an office. I don’t recall her baking but she made great stuffed cabbage and potato latkes (pancakes).

    Most of the fun memories from my early childhood involve her. She took my brother and me to Coney Island, to visit our cousins, and when I was around 8 and my brother was 12, she took us on a bus trip to Niagra Falls. I’ll never forget how she let us go out by ourselves to the Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum. And I still have an image of her in my head dressed up in rain gear on the Maid of the Mist boat ride. She didn’t have much money, but she had a sense of adventure.

    Thanks for sharing and for bringing up fond memories.

  7. Anya

    There was an article by columnist David Brooks in which he asked readers about (if I remember rightly) a life well-lived, and overwhelmingly, people wrote about the joys of a quiet life. In a world of “reality” TV and the internet, in which people do crazy things to get in the spotlight, I can’t help but think those readers have a point. The kids climbing into your bed for snuggles, the family dinners, the road trips, the goofy stories, work worth doing — those are the things that make a well-lived life for so many of us. And your grandmother sounds amazing.

  8. Nanas are such a gift to the world. I spend as much time with my Grammy as I can, soaking up her life lessons and recipes, and writing it all down. She sounds marvelous, I’d love to bake with her.

    Just jump on in and get your hands dirty Penny! The worst that could happen is you toss out a few cups of flour if it isn’t right the first time. 🙂 I’ve a sourdough starter you’re welcome to if ever you’re in the Carolinas.

  9. This is so true. Not every great idea/person “overcomes the odds.” Sometimes they quietly get by and show how to be a good person in the face of hardship. Those stories are also vital. Your nana sounds amazing.

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